Heading to Toronto’s Pearson airport? Here’s what you need to know about new changes

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Masks mandatory for passengers and staff, access to terminals restricted

Julia Knope · CBC News · Posted: Jun 01, 2020

Toronto’s Pearson International Airport has reported low passenger traffic during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is now enacting new policies to protect travellers and employees, which are in effect as of June 1. (Jonathan Castell/CBC)

There’s a new normal landing at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport on Monday. 

As Ontario begins to slowly reopen, the airport has announced new and enhanced policies — affecting both passengers and employees — to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. 

Here’s what you need to know if you’re planning on travelling through the airport in the near future. 

Masks now mandatory, terminal access restricted 

According to a release issued by the airport last week, the following policies are in effect as of June 1: 

  • All passengers and airport employees must wear masks in public spaces, except when eating or drinking. 
  • Terminal access is restricted to passengers who are travelling on the same day, as well as airport employees on duty. “Meeters and greeters,” or those dropping friends and loved ones off at the airport, are not permitted to enter the terminals.
  • Passengers arriving at Pearson Airport are asked to exit the terminal buildings immediately upon collecting their luggage. 
  • Employees are not allowed to dwell or gather in passenger areas for non-work reasons.

In addition to those changes, passengers are “as always” encouraged to follow in-terminal signage and maintain at least two metres distance from others whenever possible. 

Pearson Airport, which employs thousands of workers, is one of countless business across Ontario that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. (Jonathan Castell/CBC)

There are some exceptions to the new rules; travellers under two years old or those who have trouble breathing are not required to wear masks.

Friends or family members of someone who requires mobility assistance, or those accompanying a minor travelling alone, are allowed access into the public spaces of terminal buildings. 

“The less that people are in the terminal using shared facilities … it’s going to help eliminate further spread of the virus,” said Antonio Modarelli, of the Toronto Airport Workers Council (TAWC) — a group that is made up of six unions, representing some 50,000 workers at Pearson Airport. 

Your health and safety is our top priority. Starting tomorrow, it is mandatory that all passengers and airport employees wear masks/face coverings in all areas of our terminals. For more information, including exceptions, please visit

Toronto Pearson✔@TorontoPearson

18 positive cases reported at airport so far 

With hundreds of different employers under one roof, Modarelli says TAWC has created a voluntary reporting log to track new positive cases of COVID-19 — something most employers have already committed to doing. 

“If there’s an active case within one group, we all share the same workspaces,” he said. 

To date, Modarelli says a total of 18 cases have been confirmed. 

Over the next month, Modarelli says the airport will likely see an increase in passenger travel within the terminals and public corridors. 

In preparation of that slight surge, he said TAWC has been working with the Greater Toronto Airports Authority to enact Monday’s new measures, “something that both parties felt was very important.” 

Those changes also including the addition of plexiglass to act as barriers in some areas, as well as enhanced cleaning services. 

“I think most of our workers here at Pearson are satisfied with the latest changes,” Modarelli said. 

Refunds must be guaranteed, advocate says

Though the rules vary across Canada, Ontario isn’t banning travellers from other provinces or mandating that they self-isolate for 14 days. 

But Gabor Lukacs, the founder of Air Passenger Rights, says that won’t matter unless Canadians — and the federal government — decide to reopen their wallets. 

The findings of a survey released last month indicated that more than 60 per cent of tourism businesses in Toronto were temporarily closed, and half of seasonal businesses said they wouldn’t be able to open for the summer season. (John Rieti/CBC)

“[If] people are concerned about losing their money, they will not travel,” he told CBC Toronto. 

“As long passengers cannot be assured that they’re going to get a refund if their flight is cancelled, people will not be travelling.” 

And pressure is mounting on the federal government to do just that.

The minister of transport’s office has been hit with a growing number of complaints to make it mandatory for Canadian airlines to refund passengers for flights cancelled due to pandemic travel restrictions if those companies are receiving aid from taxpayers. The federal government is expected to deliver an update on airline refunds in the coming weeks. 

Tourism Toronto receives $8M 

Meanwhile, Ottawa has earmarked millions of dollars to promote holiday travel inside Canada as it seeks to help the tourism industry weather the COVID-19 pandemic.

Of those funds, just under $8 million will be dedicated to boosting Tourism Toronto. 

The tourism sector across the country, which employs about one in 11 Canadians, has been hit hard by the pandemic as international travel bans and border restrictions have choked off the flow of visitors.

Ontario is set to lose just over 50 per cent of its revenue this year, which sits at around $36 billion annually, according to the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario (TIAO). 

Well over half of the province’s businesses have temporarily closed — with many saying they won’t reopen — and some 38 per cent of jobs have been lost. 

TIAO says Toronto’s allocated funds will be dedicated toward marketing businesses that have partially reopened and promoting travel within Ontario’s borders. 

“We’re really pushing Ontarians to get out and explore this summer, to go parts of the province you haven’t been to,” Beth Potter, president and CEO of TIAO, told CBC Toronto.

With files from Taylor Simmons